Celebrating Black History Month with The Daily Show's "senior black correspondent," Larry Wilmore
But Larry Wilmore, the comic and TV producer turning heads as the “senior black correspondent” on The Daily Show, is willing to do just about anything to promote his new book I’d Rather We Got Casinos and other Black Thoughts.
Including suggesting that a book with chapters such as “Black Weathermen Make Me Feel Sad,” “Text Messages From a Birmingham Jail” and “How Come Brothas Don’t see UFOs” might make an appropriate contribution to anyone’s knowledge of black culture.
“I think we have permission to talk about ourselves in a way that’s harder for other people to do,” said Wilmore, in a rare moment of seriousness, contemplating how his book satirizes touchy subjects such as the self-appointed status of black leaders and some contemporary arguments for Jesus’ blackness. “I think that’s completely fair. If we can’t make fun of ourselves, what can you laugh at?
Now pulling together a pilot for HBO starring himself as a self-centered cable news anchor -– however did he think up that concept? -– Wilmore freed up a few minutes to talk about his book and the state of black folks on TV.
What’s your favorite bit in the book?
“I think it's ‘In Search of Black Jesus,’ because I wrote it in one sitting. I’m just providing evidence; people can make up their own minds. His cousin had the first hip-hop name: John the Baptist. It’s something to think about. He had a 12-man posse. Even by today’s standards, that is pretty excessive, and we are in the era of big posses.”
I loved your chapter about what makes a black leader, listing stuff like “I’m self-appointed,” “I’m a reverend with no church” and “when I get angry, white people are afraid of me.”
“And it still holds true after the election. Obama’s not a black leader -- because he’s elected, that cancels him out. You have to be self-appointed. If he would have known that, maybe he wouldn’t have gone through the whole primary process.”
When Dave Chappelle quit his Comedy Central show, he talked about some people taking his satire about black folks too literally. Do you worry about that?
“Let’s be clear: Dave Chappelle had a show that he was in charge of, Comedy Central didn’t care what he did, and they were going to give him $50-million to do whatever he wanted to do and he said no. You tell me who was on the right side of that equation. Let’s call his wife right now and see how she feels about that. I bet he’s still sleeping on the couch. If they still own a couch.
You were initially writing for yourself an HBO series as an Obama-type candidate, weren’t you?
Primarily Colored was the name of the show, and it was great. I was really dealing with race and politics. Am I black enough? How black do I need to be? But once Obama became president, it just didn’t seem that relevant, so I had to move on.”
Do your Daily Show bits on race ever upset black people?
“I have done research and figured out that only three black people total watch The Daily Show. And no one knows more than three black people who watch The Daily Show. I can go into a black barbershop, and nobody even knows I’m in show business.”
You’d think TV would be more diverse in the age of Obama, but it's not working out that way.
“It’s very cynical. When I was still in network television, Fox put my show, The Bernie Mac Show (he's the creator), up against Damon Wayans' ABC show at the same time on the same night. And they were the only two black sitcoms on network TV. It’s like running CSI and CSI: Miami against each other on different channels.”